Josh Kendall

Five burning questions for South Carolina’s game against Chattanooga

Will Muschamp appreciates the 20 Gamecocks seniors set to walk Saturday

The University of South Carolina football team prepares to play Chattanooga.
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The University of South Carolina football team prepares to play Chattanooga.

South Carolina (5-4) plays Chattanooga (6-4) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Williams-Brice Stadium. Here are five burning questions headed into that game:

Will the Gamecocks cover the spread?

South Carolina is going to win this game. The Mocs are an FCS team and not a very good one this year. After starting the season 4-0, they have lost four of their last six games. The Gamecocks are a 30.5-point favorite, and it’s always a question if FBS teams cover spreads like that in games like this. The answer to this question might come down to the answer to the next question.

Will Dakereon Joyner play?

Thanks to a new NCAA rule, freshmen can play in up to four games without using a year of eligibility. That means that all the newcomers who haven’t played this year could play in every game the rest of the year and still be classified as freshmen next year. There are a handful of players in this group, but Joyner, the four-star quarterback signee, is the only one most fans are worried about seeing at this point in the year. Head coach Will Muschamp said he would like to get all the freshmen some game action this season “if they can help us win the game.” That’s a little vague but look for Joyner to get some late snaps Saturday just to get a feel for live college football.

Will this be one of Donell Stanley’s last games?

The Gamecocks starting center is a junior but will participate in senior day activities along with 19 other players. Stanley hasn’t decided if he will return for his senior season or enter the NFL Draft in the spring. If he leaves, South Carolina will have to replace 60 percent of this year’s starting offensive line since left tackle Dennis Daley and left guard Zack Bailey are seniors. Stanley’s emergence at center is one of the reasons this year’s offensive front has been the best of the Muschamp era, and his return would be a boost in 2019.

How will Jaycee Horn look at safety?

Will Muschamp announced Thursday the freshman corner/nickel will fill in at safety. He’s already become arguably the team’s most reliable player in the secondary and maybe on defense. Depth at the position probably not going to matter against the Mocs, but South Carolina needs to audition some players today for next week’s game against Clemson. Steven Montac and R.J. Roderick are the only healthy safeties on the roster right now, as J.T. Ibe is still out. Horn is still looking for his first interception of the season, but has broken up eight passes and is almost assuredly headed for All-SEC Freshman honors.

How many people will show?

It’s a night game, which should be a draw for some fans. And the team’s seniors will be honored before the game, which will be a draw for others. But the Gamecocks are a team coming off a discouraging loss and playing an overmatched opponent, and it will be the coldest home game of the season thus far. It’s worth wondering how many of the USC faithful will make it to the stadium for the next-to-last home game of the year. (Don’t forget the Akron game on Dec. 1.)

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